Resources for Booking a Hotel
I use booking.com almost exclusively when I travel. There is a ton of information about the hotels listed along with reviews. Many hotels feature free cancellation up to 24 hours before check-in so you can grab one and then keep looking to see if you find something better.
TripAdvisor.com is another great resource for finding reviewed hotels as well as various pricing on hotels in Paris.
If you are more adventurous and want a truly unique experience, check out airbnb.com to stay in an actual Parisian apartment. (This is a great option if you are bringing lots of people or want a kitchen to cook in. Make sure you read all the details!)
The public transportation in Paris is awesome but can be daunting for a tourist. This document will tell you a ton. If you google “Paris Metro” you will find helpful blogs, but here are a few tips to get you going:
You need to buy tickets. If you will be traveling in Paris for days in a row you might consider getting a Paris Visite Pass for unrestricted travel in Paris and outlying zones. You can choose how many days and which zones, which will affect your cost. You can see prices and purchase your ticket here.
A few tips for the metro:
1. Prepare for lots of stairs. Some stations have escalators, some do not.
2. If you need to take a moment to consult your map, stand against a wall, not in the middle of the stairway or the platform. Parisians are not on vacation and they have to get to work/class.
3. Maps are free at the info desks.
4. On the escalators, stand to the right. People who are in a hurry will run/walk on the left side. If you want to walk up, use the left side.
5. When waiting to enter the train, stand to the side when the doors open and let people exit first. When everyone has exited go ahead and enter. (Watch what others do for the most part.)
6. Sometimes the train will be VERY crowded. That’s normal. Squeeze in and make sure your bag is closed and keep an eye on it.
7. Come up with a plan in case your group is separated. For example, if all of you but one makes it onto the train, decide ahead of time that the group will get off at the next stop and wait for the left behind person to catch up.
8. If you sit down, only take up one seat. (Don’t put your bags on the seat next to you unless the train is empty, and even then be prepared to move them.) If you sit in one of the fold-down chairs you will need to stand when the train gets crowded. (Again watch what others do.)
9. If you get lost or can’t figure out what to do, it’s okay to ask questions. Be polite. It works to approach someone and say, “Excusez-moi, do you speak English?” And proceed from there. (Remember that if someone is rude to you it’s not because they’re French, it’s probably because they’re in a hurry or have had a bad day.)
10. Don’t give money to panhandlers. You will see people doing musical performances. If you enjoy it you can certainly show your appreciation with a few euros.
11. If you are a lady traveling alone, it may happen that someone will flirt with you. There’s no other way to say it – don’t be nice. If a man says “bonjour” to you out of the blue or “American?” just ignore them. (Trust me.)
12. If you are standing, make sure you hold on to something or you will wind up in someone’s lap. (Again…trust me.) 😉
What to See and Do
TripAdvisor is another great resource here. Users of the site review and rate different attractions and offer helpful hints.
If you want to go up in the Eiffel Tower, you can buy your tickets online ahead of time to avoid wasting hours waiting in line.
Paris Museum Pass
If you are crazy about museums and plan to visit several on your trip, you may consider purchasing a Paris Museum Pass. The pass can be valid for 2, 4, or 6 consecutive days and gives you free unlimited visits to participating museums without waiting in line. You can find pricing here and participating museums here. (Order yours here – note shipping time and how to obtain pass.)
Make sure you decide what you want to see before going to The Louvre. If you are a huge art fan, you might want to spend an entire day there, but for the average tourists there are probably just a few things you want to see. You can see the floor plan of the museum here, and The Louvre’s website also has a lot of information about current exhibits.
The Sacre Coeur is not a place that most tourists think of immediately to see, but it has one of the most spectacular views of Paris. Prepare to climb a ton of steps to get to it, or you can take the metro to Anvers and around the left side of the stairs you will find the “funiculaire”, or a tram to take you up to the top. (This takes one t+ ticket.) Make sure you go inside the church but be aware that they are very strict on no talking and no taking photos. (Please be a good tourist and respect their rules – just enjoy the moment for yourself and don’t worry about capturing it.)
Where/What to Eat
Paris is a city known for food, and for good reason. The variety is endless and some of the food is the best stuff you’ve ever tasted.
Start here – blogger David Lebovitz’s list of “Ten Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Paris.”
David Lebovitz has a lot of great posts about where to eat in Paris. Also, check out Paris by Mouth for exceptional restaurant recommendations.
If you want crepes, the street ones are okay, but if you want really delicious crepes, my favorite place is called Little Breizh. They have a nice menu of “salé” crepes (salty, dinner crepes) as well as “sucré crepes (sweet, dessert crepes). The wait staff is great and can help you understand the menu. When you exit the restaurant turn left and you will find several gelato places.
My rule of thumb for dining in Paris is that the closer a restaurant is to a tourist attraction, the more overpriced and mediocre the food will be. Your best bet is, again, TripAdvisor for lots of information like price range and reviews, or yelp.fr.
Most restaurants have a menu outside the front door so you can look at their selection as well as their prices. Don’t always go fancy – I love baguette sandwiches from bakeries just as much as fine dining! (Try the sandwich mixte!)
(Note: I did not receive any compensation for any of the sites or businesses listed here. It’s just what I use.)
Great Paris Blogs/Sites
(Note: I do not endorse all the content of these sites but they are fantastic resources for finding adventures and information about Paris.)
Paris by Mouth
Secrets of Paris
Girls Guide to Paris
The Paris Blog
“16 Ways to Avoid being the Cliché Tourist in Paris”
(I disagree with several of these points such as 1 and 4 but the rest are really good.)